To live in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind

Let us help get you started

Obituary for Kenneth S. "Sarge" Espenes

Kenneth S. "Sarge" Espenes, 85, of La Crosse, passed away Thursday, September 22, 2011, at his home.
He was born May 12, 1926, in La Crosse to Olaf and Cecelia (Breese) Espenes. Ken attended Central High School in La Crosse, the class of 1944. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 17 on February 14, 1944. Ken was assigned to Easy Company, 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. As a rifleman with the 3rd Platoon, he was wounded on the first day of battle on Iwo Jima by a mortar round. Ken recovered in time to join the 40-man patrol to the top of Mt. Suribachi. He guarded the group with his BAR and watched his platoon mates raise the first flag. Days later, during the 3rd Platoon's fierce battle for Motoyama airfield on March 1, he was wounded for the second time. Ken was awarded the Purple Heart for his wounds. He later recovered and re-joined what remained of his unit. Ken participated in the occupation of Japan. He remained in the Marine Reserves after the war and later volunteered for active duty during the Korean War. On January 17, 1953, Ken married the girl next door, Mary Catherine McKoskey, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in La Crosse. Following his military service, Ken proudly joined the La Crosse Police Department and served until his retirement as Sergeant in 1981. Ken was a life member of the Roy L. Vingers American Legion Post 52 and the Thomas Rooney VFW Post 1530, both of La Crosse, the 5th Marine Division Association, the Marine Corps League, the Military Order of Purple Heart, and the Disabled American Veterans. During his retirement, Ken enjoyed camping and traveling with his wife, Mary, playing cards with friends and family, and he especially enjoyed shaking dice with his police buddies.
Survivors include his loving wife of 58 years, Mary of La Crosse; his five children, Michael (Diane) Espenes of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Katherine (Robert) Bishop of Ferryville, Wis., David (Laura Lee) Espenes of Waunakee, Wis., Gregory (Julie) Espenes of La Crosse, and Barbara Manders of Watertown, Wis.; eight grandchildren, Christina Espenes, Kari (Dr. Finn) Hawkins, Andrew Espenes, Jonathan (Taryn) Espenes, Nathaniel Espenes, Philip Espenes, Zachary Manders, and Hannah Manders; four step-grandchildren, Tricia Bishop, Aaron (Rachel) Bishop, Christopher (Julie) Manders, and Jennifer Manders; three step-great-grandchildren, Alexander Bishop, Amelia Bishop, and Mason Manders; his beloved ice cream pal, Gizmo; his brother, Olav Espenes; his sister, Anna (Dr. Gerald) Broderick; his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Virginia Kiss, Richard (Audrey) McKoskey, Joanne Schulze, Laurel Anderson, Annette Burns, and Jerome (Mary) McKoskey; and many nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.
Ken was preceded in death by his parents; his sister, Marilyn (Jack) Jones; his son-in-law, Michael Manders; and his brothers-in-law, George "Budd" McKoskey, Garland Schulze, Thomas Burns, and Lawrence Kiss.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be Monday, September 26, 2011, at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1333 South 13th St., La Crosse. Father G. Richard Roberts will officiate.  Following the mass, military and police honors will be performed by the United States Marine Corps Funeral Honor Guard, the American Legion Post 52 and the VFW Post 1530, both of La Crosse, and the La Crosse Police Department Honor Guard. A private family burial will be held in Catholic Cemetery at a later date. A visitation will be held at Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Home, (Woodruff Chapel), 4239 Mormon Coulee Rd., La Crosse, on Sunday beginning at 4:00 p.m. and concluding with a prayer service at 6:30 p.m. Friends may also call at the church on Monday from 9:30 a.m. until the time of mass. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred and may be given to Holy Trinity Catholic Church or Mayo Clinic Health System Hospice Program, both of La Crosse. Online condolences may be sent at
Ken's family would like to give special thanks to Tammy Haefs, RN, all of the staff of the Mayo Clinic Health System Hospice Program, La Crosse, and Dr. W. Hlaing and his staff from Mayo Clinic Health System, La Crosse.